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  Undying Monster, The Cursed
Year: 1942
Director: John Brahm
Stars: James Ellison, Heather Angel, John Howard, Bramwell Fletcher, Heather Thatcher, Aubrey Mather, Halliwell Hobbes, Holmes Herbert
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is midnight in the mansion of the Hammond family, and Helga Hammond (Heather Angel) has fallen asleep, but is woken sharply by someone approaching her through the shadows. She looks around to see the butler, Walton (Halliwell Hobbes) standing there with her pet dog and he informs her that her brother, Oliver (John Howard), has not returned home from the laboratory yet. It is a cold and frosty night, but they're not worried about Oliver catching a chill, rather that something else might befall him: the curse that took his grandfather twenty years ago...

There is indeed a curse on the Hammond Family, but you don't actually find out what it is until the end of the movie. However if you've heard of this film then you'll probably know what the nature of it is, and the information that the film was produced by Twentieth Century Fox as a cash in on the success of Universal's The Wolf Man also gives the game away. In fact the film is less like that effort and more like The Hound of the Baskervilles, complete with detective work and creepy sets.

What this really has going for it is the atmosphere created by director John Brahm and his photographer Lucien Ballard which evokes an air of the sinister without allowing the more light-hearted elements to turn this into a turn of the century version of Scooby-Doo (although the pet dog is a Great Dane). From a script by Lillie Hayward and Michael Jacoby, adapting a novel by Jessie Douglas Kerruish, this is more a mystery story than anything else as Oliver is attacked by on his way home that night, and a young woman suffers the same fate.

The woman is sent into a coma, and although nobody has died (yet), a Scotland Yard detective is brought in, Robert Curtis (James Ellison) with his comic relief assistant "Christy" Christopher (Heather Thatcher in a winning performance of eccentricity) by his side. However, they have opposition from just about everybody they meet when they reach the mansion, particularly from local doctor Colbert (Bramwell Fletcher) who is keen to foil any investigations - does he know more than he lets on?

Of course he does, but Helga's insistence that there is no curse begins to look more than a little hollow. Despite all this intrigue, not much actually happens between the opening attacks and the finale which sees the monster making the expected comeback, yet the creepy mood, all rendered on impressive sets (even the outdoor scenes) commands the attention. Trips to the family crypt and out onto the nearby cliffs are very entertaining, and if The Undying Monster is strictly second division - it barely lasts an hour - it does satisfy. A pity that they don't reveal their monster earlier, but nevertheless the film is worthwhile. Music by David Raksin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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